Ireland’s ex-president Mary McAleese said, in relation to preliminary discussions for the upcoming Synod on the family, that it was ‘bonkers’ for such weighty matters to be discussed by elderly celibate men. That observation has been proven right by the Pope’s assertion that slapping children is ok and even ‘beautiful’. McAleese, currently completing her doctorate in canon law in Rome, has sharply criticised that statement, from legal and personal perspectives. It is infuriating to think that a woman of McAleese’s calibre – a world class politician, diplomat, lawyer and also a wife and mother who has successfully reared her family and is in a long and clearly happy marriage – is to hand in Rome and has not been asked to contribute. It makes you think that the bias against women so deeply rooted in the Vatican is implacable and powerful. Are we witnessing an irresistible force (McAleese) meeting an immovable object (the Curia) ? If Pope Francis is as humble as he portrays himself to be, surely he could mediate and ask McAleese for help and advice? On a purely practical basis, it’s sad to see someone who comes across as kindly making such a faux pas with regard to corporal punishment, but if he were to approach McAleese (biretta in hand) it would do more for the Vatican’s image than all the doctrinal change in the world.